Kunai Partners with major card issuer to Build Premium Dining Rewards Platform For Loyal Customers

What is Major Card Issuer?
One of the nation's largest banks with businesses across three major divisions
Technology focused bank. First bank to migrate their entire data center to AWS
Contracted Kunai to build new rewards platform in 2021
Seven Rooms
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Our client is one of the nation's largest banks with businesses across three major divisions: credit cards, consumer banking and commercial banking.

An innovation leader in the financial industry, our client has dedicated itself to pushing the boundaries of technology in banking. They were one of the first banks to go all in on cloud computing, migrating their entire data center to AWS.

To further bolster their cloud capabilities, they introduced Apache Cassandra and Spark to their cloud stack, adding customer data management features to their systems. One of their many goals was to optimize their rewards platform by providing more curated and personalized rewards for their card holders.

To that end, they developed plans to provide their cardholders with an elite restaurant dining experience through their loyalty and rewards platform.

The Challenge

Our client had three goals in building their new Dining program: To provide cardholders access to “hard-to-get” dining reservations To fully leverage the power of their cloud platform To take this program from concept to launch as fast as possible

The platform needed to be built quickly and reliably to keep up with market fluctuations.

“We needed to reinvent what it meant to reward loyal customers beyond just a cash back or travel miles perk– that’s easy. We want there to be more depth in how we show our appreciation, to say ‘you know that really nice restaurant in New York that you need to book months in advance? And you know how you’ve been with us for five years? How about we get you a table right now’,” said Sandeep Sood, CEO at Kunai.

Proper Reward Structure

On the surface, the Dining platform seemed relatively simple: allow card holders to redeem reservations at high-end restaurants.

However, our intended to partner with some of the most exclusive dining establishments in the United States.

Such establishments were often fully booked months in advance, and required no external assistance to fill up tables. Therefore, this model would require expert tuning to create a truly unique opportunity for loyal customers while also offering an attractive proposition for third-party partners.

They would need a development team experienced with workshopping, developing, and launching successful rewards programs to maximize benefits for the three main stakeholders involved: the client, customers, and partners.

Fully Utilizing Cloud Integrations

Hosting the Dining platform on a cloud network would exponentially increase reliability, uptime, and speed while also slashing operational costs– on one condition:

Cassandra’s scalability and high reliability combined with Spark’s matchless speed and efficiency could only be fully utilized by a development partner who already knew how to create a hybrid cloud solution using both technologies.

And since a large portion of our client’s cloud systems were built in AWS, the collaborating development team would also have to be familiar with their EC2, S3, RDS, and Amazon Connect implements.

Velocity and Market Fluctuations

The Dining platform needed to be built quickly to keep up with market fluctuations.

Given the constant evolution of dining trends, competitor action, and other market outlooks– the development team would have to be highly flexible, able to adapt to sudden changes, juggle many vendors, and develop around short timetables without compromising quality.

Additionally, given the customer-centric nature of a loyalty and rewards platform, special attention would have to be placed on platform reliability. Should the platform go down while a customer was trying to redeem a reward, our client would risk both their reputation and customer retention.

Lastly, the development team would also need to possess a market-tested expertise in compliance standards including, but not limited to, PCI DSS, FCRA, ADA, and SOC2. And given the sensitive nature of user data, they would also have to have experience with cybersecurity practices to protect against cyber threats and breaches.

The Solution

Our client initially set out to work with Kunai to assist them through their cloud journey. It was during this partnership when they looked to update their loyalty and rewards platform.

With Kunai’s deep understanding of payment and booking API integrations, AWS infrastructure, and cloud systems– they were entrusted with designing, building, launching, and maintaining this new platform.

“What really stood out to us was the client's single-minded focus on ensuring that this platform made their customers and vendor partners happy. We were captivated by our client’s vision and we wanted to make it happen,” said Youhee Choi, Senior Product Manager at Kunai.

Kunai’s expert team presented themselves as a nimble and uniquely equipped solution to our client’s objectives.

With their vast API integration experience, compliance expertise, cloud development capabilities, and flexible product development team– Kunai partnered with our client to design and build the cloud-based MVP dining rewards platform, and take it to market.

The Process

From Notepad to Launchpad

Kunai built and launched our client's Dining platform to great success.

With their expertise on AWS, deep knowledge of scalable architecture, and familiarity with payment & booking API integrations– development was fast without compromising on quality or compliance.

However, the process was not without obstacles.

Giving Everyone A Slice of the Pie

Before development began, it was imperative to design a system that rewarded the customer, the partner, and our client.

The crux of the issue lay with the third-party partners. Since the exclusive establishments that our client was trying to partner with were rarely lacking in patrons, there needed to be a different angle to incentivize these restaurants to set aside some seats for the customers.

Kunai and our client worked together to come up with a multi-layered solution that further elevated the partner restaurant’s prestige and the customer’s experience.

The partnering establishments would have their names on a list curated by very high-profile experts and organizations like Chef José Andrés, the MICHELIN Guide, and the James Beard Foundation.

In addition, partnering establishments would also have the opportunity to host and sell tickets to exclusive, card holder events.

The Intricacies of an Astounding Customer Experience

The Dining platform’s absolute need for reliability cannot be overstated. Even a somewhat minor inconvenience could turn what was supposed to be a rewarding experience into a grueling ordeal.

With customers residing in every corner of the United States, Kunai was met with the challenge of architecting a supremely reliable infrastructure.

Kunai’s approach was to build the platform from the ground up. Apache Cassandra was utilized for its high reliability and linear scalability. Combined with Spark’s large-scale data processing speeds, Kunai built a reliable infrastructure with a consistent semi-annual failover testing Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of less than 10 seconds.

Kunai successfully developed the Dining platform as envisioned by our client, and still hosts and operates it today.

Development turnaround was fast, and a cloud-based, front-end user portal and back-end rewards platform was born.

The Result

Loyalty Program: Dining

The new Dining platform gives card holders the opportunity to explore new flavors by celebrated, high profile chefs and establishments.

Cardholders may choose to redeem rewards for exclusive reservations at high-end dining establishments, tickets for exclusive events at the nation’s top food festivals, and card holder-only dinners featuring chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants.

The Dining platform is SOC2 compliant, ADA-approved, and boasts extreme reliability, fast responsiveness, and supreme customer satisfaction.

The platform was launched in early 2022 and has since onboarded over 1M+ users and allows reservations across 10+ major US cities with over 350+ restaurants.

Feature: Exclusive Reservations

At the core of the Dining platform lies exclusive reservations. Card holders are encouraged to explore a variety of spectacular dining experiences ranging from well-known establishments to up-and-coming destinations, curated by prominent chefs, the MICHELIN Guide and the James Beard Foundation.

Once a card holder has created an online account, they can then book a reservation at their desired venue through the web platform hosted by Kunai. From there, all they need to do is follow the guided steps to complete their booking.

Thanks to API integration with the restaurant management software, card holders can seamlessly reserve tables at available locations while restaurants can easily keep tabs and manage customer reservations.

Feature: Cardholder Events

Card holders may also redeem rewards for exclusive culinary experiences hosted by the MICHELIN Guide, James Beard Foundation, and other high profile culinary mainstays.

Such events consist of travel-inspired tasting menus prepared by chefs from MICHELIN-starred restaurants, interactive culinary experiences curated by Chef José Andrés, and even the New York City Wine and Food Festival.

Feature: Dine & Dash

The Dine & Dash feature is a built-in seamless payment processing feature that removes the need to get a bill at the end of a meal.

This feature lets card holders reserve their seats, plan their experience, and pre-pay for everything from their phone. That way, all they have to do is walk in, sit down, enjoy their experience, and leave when they’re ready.

Dine & Dash integrates Stripe and other payment API’s to facilitate easy and secure payment.

An Evolving Platform

Kunai actively hosts, operates, and maintains the Dining platform. Kunai and our client continue to collaborate in its active development and evolution.

Kunai plans to foster even deeper engagement by providing additional payment options with credit card reward points, integrating with third party incentive programs, and partnering with more celebrity chefs and ultra-fine dining establishments.

With over a million customers across 10+ cities and partnerships with 350+ venues– the Dining platform will only continue to grow its user base.

Our client’s base of loyal, high net worth customers has increased, relationships with highly respectable figures in fine dining have been bolstered, and customers are delighted to indulge in exclusive access to prestigious culinary experiences.